MTV Europe evolving into localized netlets

LONDON — MTV Europe is delving ever deeper into localization, breaking up its northern service into separate feeds for Holland, Scandinavia and Eastern Europe in 1998. In the run-up, it will cut at least 80 jobs from the web’s London corporate headquarters over the next month from a staff approaching 700.

According to MTVE chief exec Brent Hansen, this further regionalization — the net launched a U.K. feed in September and previously boosted German-language programming on its central service — completes the transitional process MTVE has undergone over the past 18 months from having originally been a Pan-European web. It follows the resignation last week of three execs, including Rachel Purnell, who headed programming.

Hansen said, “It’s not a reactive step, it’s a proactive step,” adding that the restructuring and remedying the redundancies were difficult decisions but not a cost-cutting exercise, and would mean the local feeds would now receive a 70% budget boost — to be used on staff or otherwise — and would also enjoy editorial control.

“There will be no editorial direction from the center any longer,” Hansen said. “We can’t afford to sit back with digital coming.”

MTVE had previously announced it would launch its sister channel, M2, in Europe. That now has a partial time frame, bowing in Scandinavia in the second quarter of 1998, followed by the U.K., and then other territories.

Hansen said further localization — potentially services specific to France or Spain — was also in the cards once those markets warrant it. The other existing MTVE service is the southern feed, which caters to Italy, a major territory for the web, but still not as crucial as Germany and the U.K., which will receive the biggest slices of reallocated budget funds.

Hansen added that the U.K. and central services were performing very well against their rivals, respectively the Box and VIVA, and that MTVE’s rating share was up significantly over both channels since last year.

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